"On the day before Mardi Gras Day, Monday, comes Rex, King of Carnival, accompanied by his nobles and attendants in waiting, to his much-beloved Capital.'... Rex usually, although not necessarily, makes his journey to the city by way of the river on his Royal Yacht,' escorted by the Royal Flotilla'--which royal yacht and royal flotilla vary, according to his whims, from private yachts to visiting war vessels of the United States and foreign nations, with accompanying tugs and merchant steamers."

[New Orleans Progressive Union. New Orleans: What to See and How to See It (1909), pp. 27-28.]

The arrival of Rex from his royal barge, February 11, 1907. " Sunlight chased the shadows of the early morning along the great river," the Daily Picayune wrote, "and when the royal fleet went out to meet the King's yacht, it shone brilliantly on river and shore and among the green fields below the city, so familiar to the King and his party. Never was there a better day, and the royal party was met by a fleet of boats and a multitude of sightseers such as had never before gone out to welcome the sovereign to his own. . . . "
[George Francis Muggier Collection]
For years, the old tradition of Rex's triumphant entry into the city from the river on the day before Mardi Gras was lost. Recently, however, the event has been revived, and both Rex and Zulu now come to the foot of Canal Street by boat on Lundi Gras--Fat Monday--to mark the official beginning of the city's Mardi Gras celebration.

The arrival of these monarchs by way of the Mississippi is a tangible symbol of the many other more intangible gifts that the river has given to the Crescent City. The river has enriched the cultural heritage of New Orleans in countless ways. The boats brought material goods that enriched the quality of life-- Paris fashions, furniture, artwork, china and silver and other imported finery, wines and liquors and spices and fruits and other fancy foodstuffs from abroad. But, more importantly, the river brought people of all races and nationalities whose contributions and interaction throughout our history have influenced the atmosphere and attitudes that make New Orleans unique among American cities. Up or down the river to New Orleans came artists, musicians, writers, actors, craftsmen, teachers who added to the "gumbo" mix.

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iw/we 5/1998